Amuse-Bouche: Garden Grille

Pretty AND healthy AND tasty.

Despite their prevalence today — especially on college campuses, especially at Brown — vegetarians are all too frequently handed the short end of the stick when it comes to dining out. Sure, nearly all restaurants throw their veg patrons a bone a token meatless dish, but they often get lazy in the process. The result is one too many bland pasta dishes or lackluster heaps of grilled vegetables. Even if you’re a proud carnivore, a restaurant’s vegetarian options should ideally be as enticing as its steak frites or scallops and vanilla leeks.

Enter Garden Grille. From its abode in a strip mall straight up Hope Street and into Pawtucket, it’s pretty unassuming. But inside, it’s pretty freaking cute. Blue-green walls, lantern lights, and fresh flowers on each table contribute to a hip but cozy, casual atmosphere. One downside of this is that you may have to wait for your table, so plan accordingly; alternatively, you can sidle up at the bar if you’re super-hungry (which we were).

Seeing as how it makes good, creative use of lots and lots of fresh produce, the menu changes seasonally. For winter, that means lots of extra-savory, comforting dishes. I had grilled Maitake mushrooms ($16), which came in smoky little clusters atop a mound of red rice (imagine brown rice but nuttier and chewier) in miso broth with crisp baby bok choy, sweet potatoes, and roasted turnips. It was savory and filling and inspired and strange, the polar opposite of those chicken-shit vegetarian entrées at some other restaurants.

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